A car is just a means of getting from A to B. It’s a thing, an object. A necessity.
I’m willing to take a flier on this but if you own a Rolls Royce then you probably are not a ‘just a means of getting from A to B’ sort of person.
In the same way that a Rolex is about many things except telling the time, a Rolls puts connecting points A and B on a map fairly low on its list of priorities. Because, like the Rolex, few objects fit the category of statement purchase quite as well as a Rolls Royce.
It was, of course, ever thus. Since the day we humans climbed out of the primordial swamp we’ve been preoccupied with demonstrating our one-up-manship, proving that we, yes me, are the King Of The Hill. Our primate cousins still do this by fighting each other and having the best teeth; our own methods may be different but the objective is the same. And so it is that in much the same way as Og showed off his shiny new antler-spec spear to Ug (whose wooden spear could catch elk just as well), so a lottery winner’s first purchase is often a flashy car. Often a Rolls. We don’t need shiny stuff. We just want it.
There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with that. Og’s desire for a better spear than Ug is the sort of drive that keeps the world spinning. And so it is with a Rolls Royce. Other cars may perform the task of getting you from A to B better but you can’t buy a better car than a Rolls.
I was pondering all this as I took our appropriately champagne coloured Rolls Royce to collect my parents for their Golden Wedding anniversary celebrations. In the absence of a digital or fm-equipped radio there was precious little else to distract me, after all, except the creak of burgundy leather. It’s a 1977 Silver Shadow and, in the year of the Queen’s Jubilee, must have cut an astonishing dash on roads clogged with Escorts and Cortinas. Even today its presence is arresting.
I shouldn’t like the Rolls. I come from Celtic roots where tall poppies and The Man With The Best Spear are generally frowned upon. The Rolls really isn’t me. It’s a car that flaunts its owner’s peccadillos extravagantly and shamelessly. It’s allegedly the best car in the world and yet most mass produced cars of the same era fulfill the main requirements of a car better.
And yet I do like it. I really do. It is hard not to be reeled in by it’s sheer Rolls Royceness. It is luxury on four wheels. It is a mobile manifestation of our skills as craftsmen. Quite simply, no other car does opulent, luxurious and cosseting quite like a Rolls. It does what other cars do, but turned up to 11.
The Rolls achieves this with a simple no compromise approach to pretty much everything, which I find quite laudable. The seats are filled with over a foot’s worth of padding. The engine is a 10mpg 6.75 litre V8 monster. The dimensions resemble a cruise ship. There is knee room to spare. The driving position is lofty. It’s smooth and silent; the creaking of leather really is the only sound.
The Rolls’ greatest party trick is being so much better to drive than you expect. Here is an immense, tall, heavy car that ought to roll and wallow. And it does, but just enough to stay on the right side of smooth. It reminds me of a 70s Jaguar XJ – the only other car I can remember that turns uneven Tarmac into a rumpled carpet. The steering is ultra light but the Rolls is quite happy to be hustled along – you can set it up nicely for corners and enjoy the image of a 3 tonne behemoth tackling the Nurburgring. At one point I found myself wonderig what it would be like with a manual box.
The Silver Spur and Spirit, which succeeded the Shadow are by comparison hideous wallowing barges, over-heavy, overhanging lard wagons that diminish the Rolls legacy. But the Shadow is none of those things.
You can kick back and resist the Rolls, remind yourself about World Hunger and the plight of the poor, but you won’t win. Eventually you will get it: yes, the Rolls Royce is more showy than Simon Cowell’s CV, yes you’re rubbing everyone else’s nose in it as you drive along, but you don’t care. Luxury tastes good.
Without luxury, striving for The Best and seeking the shiniest spear what have we got? Hair shirts and brown rice, that’s all. Skinny lattes instead of hot chocolate with cream. We may not all dream of caviar for breakfast but we can enjoy a taste of it from time to time. And that’s perhaps the real enjoyment in a Rolls: driving it everyday would be like feasting on chocolate, a little too much and ultimately a bit unpleasant. I think if I had to have the Rolls as a daily driver I’d quickly tire of it; if it no longer feels special then it’s lost its purpose. Once you’ve turned things up to 11 and got used to it? What’s next? 12. And then?
No, an occasional drive, a Rolls dalliance if you will, is what this car is all about. We all need a few gearchanges in life to keep it interesting and exciting. A Rolls Royce does exactly that.
You can discover why the Rolls Royce is so revered from just £199 for 24 hrs or £349 for 2 days hire. The Great Escape Cars Rolls Royce is a 1977 Silver Shadow in Champagne metallic with a burgundy leather interior. The car is big but it’s easy to drive with a high driving position.